Monday, April 29, 2024

Humza - out but not down?

The shameless race-hustler Humza Yousaf has now resigned from his post as First Minister of Scotland, having left the country suffering under one of the worst pieces of legislation in living memory.

Since he is so keen on ethnic quotas let's remember that Scotland is about 96% white. So DEI-type fairness would require a non-white First Minister for no more than four years in this century. Yousaf has had 13 months; there's scope for another two years and eleven months'-worth and then, going by his principle, that's it until 2100.

But is it about race? 

If it's about religion - is the Hate Crime law really aimed at putting blasphemy (in Islamic terms) on the books? - then since Muslims represent 1.45% of the Scottish population Yousaf has spaffed away most of the 17.4 months of his co-religionists' premiership quota for this century. 

If it is only about race, would Yousaf welcome a non-white Christian as First Minister? There are over 4,000 Filipinos in Scotland; the Philippines is 86% Roman Catholic (with another 8% in other sects.) Yet Catholics are outnumbered 3-1 among Christian Scots and my late mother-in-law vividly remembers the prejudice against Catholics there when she was a young woman. So, no go, at least for a genuflecting Filipino.

If it's not religion-exclusionary and the skin quota has been satisfied, how about a Protestant, even if  [pronoun] is 'disgustingly white'? Maybe the SNP made a mistake when it marginally rejected devout 'Wee-Free' Kate Forbes in favour of  'Useless Yousaf' after 'wee Jimmy' Nicola Sturgeon stepped down last year. Instead it opted for a special-pleader (a) for his religion, under the cover of race, and most of all (b) for himself.

Perhaps we are seeing well-meaning liberalism being used against itself by a tiny minority, but if stirred by an expert stirrer, potentially a very divisive and extremely intransigent one. Can you unite a country with deep ideological fault lines?

We probably do not need to worry about Yousaf's future career. If  the allegedly corrupt Ursula van der Leyen can nevertheless become President of the European Commission then if the Scots finally lose their minds, secede from the UK and join the EU the sky's the limit for a ranting mountebank like Useless.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

WEEKENDER: Getting Old? by Wiggia

1997: a job well done, never forget.

There is undoubtedly a growing tendency to dismiss older people as an expensive nuisance. This shows in all manner of ways, from the legalised killing during the Covid pandemic and the still current issuing of unnecessary DNR orders as I have explained in detail in another piece.

There is no doubt that old people do make demands on the health service as age starts to eat into their bodies and minds. It was always thus. The same can be said at the other end of the life span as mothers and babies make up a constant stream at any doctor’s surgery; their needs are no less important than the elderly some would say as they are the future so they get preference. In a world of finite resources this may be a choice we have to make, but killing people is not a choice that should be included, yet it certainly is.

It is not just in healthcare where older people are beginning to realise they have been ‘selected’ for special treatment. Consider the ongoing row over state pensions where when questioned a minister recently stated that with the ‘triple lock’ our pensions are now a median in Europe: he lied, they are still low compared with almost all equivalent western societies, and the triple lock is not the golden bullet they make it out to be more as more pensioners are having to pay tax on their pensions as they, through fiscal drag come into higher income brackets and pay tax again on money they have already paid tax on through their lives. There is also the fact that millions do not get the full pension rise, but politicians don’t like to hear facts when they are telling their audience how wonderful things are now for older people.

Can we afford it? Amazing how we can afford anything that will put any government in a good light, or grease the palms of all those underlings that serve them; that is usually only so they spend/waste more money on something that does nothing for the nation as a whole and sod all for the elderly or anyone else.

I am not going to expatiate here about the appalling quality in so many areas and layers of government that we currently have in abundance. I have done that to death.

In other spheres the elderly are also coming under attack. The recent rise in car insurance has hit the elderly very hard, yet this sector is the safest bet for insurance on the road, so why charge them around 40% plus more in one year? You don’t get an answer to that question just a statement as to increasing costs of car repairs and non insured drivers (a million according to police estimates at the last count.) All this has pushed up the costs and premiums, but that does not answer the question as to why the safest and the group with the least claims should pay this huge rise, other of course than the fact that as with all insurance or utilities the elderly are the least likely to switch, not that it would make any difference in this case that as the insurers have all jacked up their premiums in line with one another… cartel, anyone?

Have you noticed that advertising directed towards the elderly has all the hallmarks of a scam? Pages in the Daily Mail for instance have adverts that show goods and services for the elderly and infirm that never have a price attached!

Page after page has items such as adjustable chairs, sofas and bathroom aids, never mind the stairlift ads and the mobility aids that never have a retail price for comparison purposes. A column I came across by chance a few months ago on the MSE money saving expert site, had a thread of dozens of disgruntled potential customers who had complained about the same non pricing problem; the stock answer from several of these firms was their product was bespoke and therefore being tailored to each customer individually meant the pricing was fluid.

Not really good enough, as any car purchased has a catalogue of extras all priced and the standard model the same. It really is to suck in the unsuspecting into the world of silly discounts should you have the temerity to question the price. One comment said he had phoned on behalf of his father for one of these adjustable chairs and been quoted £4k; when he spluttered that was exorbitant they halved the price on the phone without a quibble; even at half it is a rip-off.

That is just one of hundreds saying similar things about these goods aimed at the elderly, rather like insurance where the elderly are the least likely to query their large annual increase. They are seen as a group to be taken advantage of.

We come to the biggest plunderers who believe that all older people have untapped wealth: the government. Who can forget Gordon Brown and his raid on pension funds that brought in billions, the biggest betrayal of a group in this country by any chancellor, and despite shouting the odds on this despicable act did the Tories reverse it? Oh no, they quietly shunted into the siding of things to tackle later, much later.

Now we hear an incoming Labour government, promising to right the ills of the incumbent party should they win the coming election (such a choice we have!) will have no money to carry out their ‘promises’ as the country is bankrupt in all but name, and have hinted at a repeat of this infamous raid on funds. Bereft of ideas and with huge public debts and clueless leadership, they are coming again for the one group who will not be outside Parliament with thousands threatening outside. No, they are coming for the elderly. They will start by withdrawing winter fuel allowances and build from there, mark my words, and you can guarantee the one group who will not have to give up anything will be the gold-plated ring-fenced pension recipients in the political and public sector classes.

Never forget, we the private sector who pay taxes pay for the public sector wages pensions and all. Those who claim they pay into their pensions from their salaries are correct but we pay or have paid those salaries and therefore those pensions, but only the private sector gets raided.

Friday, April 26, 2024

FRIDAY MUSIC: Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, by JD

 Molly Rose Tuttle is an American vocalist, songwriter, banjo player, guitarist, recording artist, and teacher in the bluegrass tradition. She is noted for her flatpicking, clawhammer, and crosspicking guitar prowess.

You may notice Molly's shaven head in one of these videos. This is not a 'fashion statement' because she has Alopecia Areata. Here she tells her story of living with the condition -

Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway - Nashville Mess Around (Official Video)

Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway - El Dorado (Live)

Molly Tuttle - Where Did All the Wild Things Go? (Live)

Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway - Crooked Tree (Live at the Station Inn)

Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway - San Joaquin (Live)

Friday, April 19, 2024

FRIDAY MUSIC: The Oldtime String Band, by JD

The Oldtime String band was originally formed as a musical backdrop to a documentary about the cow-painter, Ruud Spil

Both the musicians and the audience enjoyed it so much that the band is now on a stampede.

The Oldtime Stringband not only plays Bluegrass and Old-Time music but is also inspired by American folk music from the 1940's and modern music with an Old-Time feel.

The Oldtime Stringband is:

Shelly O'Day : Vocals, guitar, autoharp, Cajun-triangle
Ton Knol : Guitar, mandolin, vocals
Ruud Spil : Banjo, vocals
Nico Druijf : Upright bass, vocals, singing saw
Lidewij de Vries : Fiddle, vocals

The Oldtime Stringband - Going Across the Mountain (Frank Proffitt)

The Oldtime Stringband - Run Mountain (J.E. Mainer)

The Oldtime Stringband - Our Town (Iris Dement)

The Oldtime Stringband - Cotton Mill Girl (Lester Smallwood)

The Oldtime Stringband - Angeline the Baker

Friday, April 12, 2024

FRIDAY MUSIC: The Beatles, orchestral versions, by JD

There have been lots and lots of cover versions of Beatles records, some good, some not so good. As far as I know there have been close to 2000 covers of Yesterday (according to Wiki) so the total number of covers of the Fab Four's back catalogue is anyone's guess. They were extremely popular in case you had forgotten and their music music has been adapted for orchestras around the world, inspired by The Beatles themselves who often used an orchestral backing to their songs. So here are just a few of those orchestral cover versions.

[LIVE] Beatles - YESTERDAYCello + Orchestra Version

Here, There And Everywhere - Orquestra Ouro Preto

Beatles - Eleanor Rigby e Strawberry fields forever

Here Comes the Sun - The Beatles | Joshua Bell and From the Top

The Beatles - Now And Then | Epic Orchestra

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Disneyland's Magic Stingdom


A friend recently returned from a family trip to Disneyland in Florida was enthusing to me about the rides and shows.

One thing he noticed was that the little boats taking them from A to B were in unusually swift-flowing water. It turned out to be an anti-mosquito provision, preventing them laying eggs as they do in pools and sluggish streams. So despite the tropical climate and nearby swampland there is little chance of visitors being plagued by insects.

The architecture is also designed to stop puddles forming (Reader’s Digest says more here.) Disney plans systematically and meticulously.

Could we put them in charge of our railways and the NHS?

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Fake freedom: gambling

At the newsagent’s an elderly gentleman was checking his wins on a handful of Lottery tickets. I congratulated him but he replied that over the years he had lost a total of £30,000.

He could afford it at his steady rate but there are others much less fortunate. My in-laws recently used a plumber who had retrained to escape from working in a bookmaker’s because he couldn’t stand seeing men come in crying for their wages back, and hearing of customers’ suicides.

The gaming industry excuses itself by pretending that the gambler is exercising his free will and it wouldn’t dream of interfering with his liberty. Instead it offers friendly reminders (‘when the fun stops, stop’) and a helpline (GambleAware, founded 2002), so that absolves the organisers of any responsibility, doesn’t it? But in fact if we were completely rational and self-controlled there would be no need for such advice nor any restrictions on the gaming industry’s activities.

Instead the former chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on betting and gaming has recently resigned his seat over an undercover journalistic sting by The Times in which he offered to take money for privately influencing Parliamentary colleagues and asking questions in the House.

A lot of temptation is down to availability. Betting shops became legal in 1961 and at one point there were 15,000 of them. The National Lottery started in 1994 and now there are some 30,350 terminals selling draw tickets; and in 2014-2020 their sales of instant-result scratchcards averaged over one billion items, annually. Online gaming - accessible not just via computers but on the smartphones that virtually everyone carries around - now accounts for nearly 30% of all non-Lottery income. Overall, the industry’s revenues exceed £15 billion p.a.

If this country truly valued your freedom it would not be policing your speech, to the extent that since 1 April in Scotland saying the wrong thing even in the confines of your home could potentially get you up to seven years in jail.

The only freedoms you may have are those that make money for powerful interests.

Saturday, April 06, 2024

WEEKENDER: From The Bottom Up, by Wiggia

The local press gives a fair indication as to what the movers and shakers are doing or not in your own area.

As an example of what we can do without there are three articles in the Eastern Daily Press that are classics in that what is portrayed is several groups of ersatz political wannabees that have not a clue about what they are doing or are supposed to be doing.

I have moved more times than I care to mention in the region, starting in Essex and ending now in Norfolk and in all these areas and sub divisions have seen the local councils, town and upwards in action or as in most cases inaction. In most cases the ill-informed, the naive, the pompous, the ladder climbers and the corrupt form a toxic mix of inactivity that can only be replicated in the House of Commons where it is the same but magnified. Never has there been so many layers of wasters, and I do mean wasters, who have a say in our everyday lives or wish to impose their often ridiculous rulings on the general population.

I have mentioned before the saga of the link road for the so called northern relief road round the top of Norwich, an area bereft of decent road communications. This project would if planned properly have brought relief to not only motorists but to the edge villages that suffer as rat runs.

Just a brief re run: firstly, the road should never have been built without the final connection to the A47 in the west. Secondly by not completing the road then the costs for the three mile link have soared beyond belief, and thirdly the Norfolk Council questionnaire asking for opinions on three route proposals ignored the result! And chose a further out link that will inevitably be ignored by many and the rat runs will remain.

Because of the delay all and sundry who have no interest in the road other than stopping the link-up on eco grounds have found a colony of bats that they hope will stop any further progress, and now Natural England, a government sponsored quango has put its oar in on the subject: an unelected official has used the bat card as an attempt to stop the road being built; bats before people, tee shirts available here!

All of the region’s Conservative MPs have backed the road link and named an official who is unelected for the problem, as the majority of the MPs are standing down, including ‘seven jobs’ Brandon Lewis

Typical of the type of person in the political classes, he was joined in the announcement on the road link by Richard Bacon also standing down as my MP after being totally invisible for what seems like years.

Meanwhile in Wymondham the town council have had a mental health moment after one councillor had a turn after another made a 45 second resignation speech - yes really, suggestions for this man? And the useless councillors as described by the resignation speech on a postcard please.

And at Breckland Council the troughing continues………

Magically this council has funds to pay nonentities double that others do; still, the rise in council tax will solve any monetary problems for them.

Today I saw an election card come through the door for the post of Crime Commissioner. I have no clue (nor does anyone else) who is standing for the lucrative post; probably another double-barrell-named individual as were the last two who made a bigger dent in local finances than any equivalent dent in crime figures or management of them.

The general election will of course be different. The two uniparties are busy slagging each other off while telling the electorate that voting for Reform or anyone else is detrimental to the country. If it wasn’t so serious I would laugh.

Friday, April 05, 2024

FRIDAY MUSIC: Elle and the Pocket Belles, by JD

Described by Glastonbury Festival programmer Chris Tofu as "The most saleable Electro Swing act I've ever seen", the group are reminiscent of a cross between classic 60s soul and 50s girl groups given a joyful and wry modern twist. As such they fit perfectly alongside other artists on the Freshly Squeezed record label.


Elle, Michaela, Chloé, Cat and Joanna

Elle & The Pocket Belles - See You Later (Official MV)

Old Fashioned // Lyric Video // Elle & The Pocket Belles

Elle & The Pocket Belles - Never Wanna Say Goodbye (Official MV)

Swingin' Together // Elle & The Pocket Belles

Get Down Tonight // Elle & The Pocket Belles


“Freshly Squeezed is a Brighton-based Independent Record Label of quality and innovation behind sounds like the electro swing phenomena. Roster of quirky, idiosyncratic music that you'd be unlikely to hear anywhere else. We believe it is our uncompromising quest for only the very best music that has enabled us to evolve from a small DIY label making videos on a shoestring (sometimes less) to becoming, since 2005, one of the survivors in our industry. On this channel you will see videos that we spent a little more time and money on. You will also see videos we made when we simply didn't have any budget at all. We hope you'll enjoy them all and that ultimately the quality of the music is what comes through.”

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Trashing the system

‘Big crash coming’ says Jimmy Dore, introducing his guest Paul Stone. They agree that the economy is being mismanaged, because interest rates are too high and the debt is ballooning.

The problem is that everything depends on facts and interpretation, and about the only fact that is unchallengeable is that the public debt is soaring. Stone tells Dore that it is accelerating and he expects it to increase by a trillion dollars every fifty days by the end of this year. Who is going to buy it, and how will the government be able to continue servicing the interest?

The Federal Reserve’s interest rate is at a 23-year high. There is no immediate prospect of easement: one of the Fed’s governors, Christopher Waller cites wage inflation especially in the service sector as the justification. This may be putting the cart before the horse: workers in the service sector tend to earn less than those in manufacturing industry or the FIRE economy so they will have suffered disproportionately from the high recent inflation and will seek more money to make ends meet.

Nor, arguably, is employment generally so low as to require this tightening of credit to dampen inflation. Officially it is running at 3.9% (Feb 2024) as against the long term average of 5.7%; but Stone says that if measured in the old way the rate would be 25% - as it was during the Depression era, observes Dore. Stone’s claim is echoed (‘24.9%’) by the Ludwig Institute, whose ‘True Rate of Unemployment’ tracks ‘the percentage of the U.S. labor force that does not have a full-time job (35+ hours a week) but wants one, has no job, or does not earn a living wage, conservatively pegged at $25,000 annually before taxes.’

If that higher unemployment figure is a fairer picture then it is another reason to question the government’s decision to permit a vast influx of ‘undocumented’ migrants into the US. These are not needed to open up new Western territories and in general may not be qualified to remedy shortfalls in high-skill sectors. Instead they are likely to compete for jobs that pay relatively little; this will put a brake on wage increases in those sectors and tend to cement the poorer sort into un- and under-employment. Further, the trend towards automation (robotised supermarket checkouts etc) will reduce even such opportunities and help to swell a class at least partly dependent on State benefits; and, perhaps, garner more support for a political party that presents itself as the friend of the poor.

Little wonder that the government is papering over the cracks with truckloads of freshly printed money; but unless the intention is to replicate the German hyperinflationary spiral of 1923 there will have to be a major revision of monetary and fiscal policy. In the interim there are those who will try to square the circle by hitting welfare (my brother tells me that some are saying the poor ‘don’t deserve pensions’, or have irresponsibly failed to put aside funds for their old age - out of what spare income, exactly?)

From one point of view investment is the problem. In a thriving economy ordinary people are paid well enough to buy each other’s goods and services, turning over the money again and again. Instead, the velocity of money has crashed to about one-seventh of its febrile peak in 2008 and is less than half of what it was in 1960.

At the same time the Gini measure of economic inequality in the US has soared to record levels and the excess cash of the upper echelons tends to be invested rather than spent. For decades, corporations and wealthy individuals have absorbed most of the increase in the country’s real wealth and their surplus ‘walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour’: hedge funds are buying up medical practices, care homes, veterinary outfits… and residential property.

Increasingly, ordinary people will be earning a pittance (if they have work at all) and be soaked for the dubious services of medicine and college education and the rent of the ground under their feet. The great American empire is turning Ottoman, a land of pashas and peasants, something Elia Kazan’s uncle fought to escape (watch ‘America, America’ if you can.) Why else would the people consider a maverick like Trump?

Ah, the 1960s! To most of us Brits the cartoon caveman Fred Flintstone was an aspirational fantasy - imagine, a detached home in the suburbs and a private car! - but for millions of Americans it was an amusing take on their reality. Now we are in the world of ‘Nomadland’, people caravanning about for sessional work until their health gives out.

In the video at top Jimmy Dore advocates gold and silver as hedges against the predicted crash of the system (Paul Stone is the CEO of Colonial Metals Group.) This is okay for a moderate level of disaster, though if the paper dollar evaporates gold on its own does not operate efficiently as a monetary basis - it is too valuable (an old rule of thumb is that ‘an ounce of gold buys you a handmade suit.’) Hence the retired business magnate Hugo Salinas Price has long argued for coinage based on silver (by weight rather than nominal value) as well as gold - effectively the bimetallic system required under Article 1, Section 10 of the US Constitution.

In the worst case, even gold doesn’t protect you. In Britain from time to time we unearth hoards of gold artefacts and coins apparently abandoned by surviving Anglo-Saxon nobility fleeing the Norman Conquest of 1066. Some of the fugitives sailed to Constantinople, fought for the Byzantine Emperor and were granted lands in Crimea (aka ‘New England’)… but they never came back for their gold.

The true wealth of a country, apart from its natural resources, is its people. In old age Thomas Jefferson suggested that every time half the population had passed away there should be a revision of the Constitution, the living citizenry being the sole source of power and authority. They would then agree on the new form of the institutions by which they would govern themselves. So much for ‘originalism’!

What I perceive as an outsider - but I have a dog in the fight, as the next two generations of my family are US citizens - is the progressive trashing not just of the US economy but of its institutions also. Whatever the outcome of the multiple trials and official investigations concerning the egregious Mr Trump, it looks to many as though the courts and agencies of America have been politicised and weaponised to prevent his standing again for the Presidency and to preserve some kind of ‘business as usual’ for the ‘uniparty’ establishment. The result is a dangerous diminution of the public trust in institutional impartiality and justice that holds a vast and disparate nation together - ‘Out of many, one,’ a motto that needs urgent attention.